How I Felt The Day After


I pledged to myself that I'd spend the first part of my Wednesday, the morning after the election, pouring out my thoughts to you.

I wanted to give you my unfiltered response, full of emotional immediacy rather than cool-headed distance, as part of my ongoing effort to share more of myself with you.

I expected, of course, that what I'd be 'responding' to might include contested results, voter-fraud charges, other last-minute surprises… maybe even riots. These days, nothing seemed too outrageous to consider. In the end, such frightful imaginings proved silly.

The big election went smoothly. The results came through loud and clear. History was made, with the election of America's first Black president (even if he's actually biracial). Case closed.

Yet, I do not feel relieved this morning. I feel sick in the pit of my stomach. As part of yesterday's election, my beloved home state California voted to eliminate the rights of same-sex partners to marry. (Factually, at the time I'm writing, this race is still too close to call… though all indications point to Prop 8's victory.) It is as if my small-but-vocal minority was excluded from the collective tide-change celebration. Unlike members of other minorities, my people—the GLBT community—have not awakened this morning to a gloriously inspiring symbol that our children can now grow up to become anything they want to be. No, we awoke to news that discrimination against us will be written into the state constitution.

I do my best not to saddle my writings with too distinct a partisan political message, as I've found that brazenly taking sides often either detracts from my astrological intent or seems superfluous to the points I'm trying to express. In this instance, however, I cannot skirt the overtly political… if I hope to meet my goal of telling you how I really feel.

I take the ban on same-sex marriage personally. This policy doesn't bear abstract consequences. Rather, it has a direct impact on my quality of life. Though I've never been a huge advocate of marriage in general, the fact that same-sex marriage was ruled legal by California courts a few months ago (and has regularly appeared as a topic in news headlines all year) opened my eyes to the possibility for me. Even light discussions about it with my partner Ricky seemed to tread new ground. With the passage of Prop 8, it's as if something I only recently realized might be important to me has now been ripped from my hands like a cruel joke.

As I sat alone on the couch last night, watching as early election results came in, I found myself overcome with emotion. I sobbed uncontrollably because I simply didn't want to believe that California, the state I love more than any other place on the planet, could possibly vote to constitutionalize discrimination against me… a vote of hatred against a trait about myself I believe I was born with and have no control over. 'This couldn't really happen, could it?' I typed, as I continued a full-body sob. Apparently, it could.

I didn't realize how scared I was about Prop 8 until last week, when I made an unexpected last-minute second donation to the No on 8 campaign. This was the first political campaign I ever donated to, let alone twice… though, admittedly, offering a credit-card number and a couple mouse-clicks was perhaps the very least I could do. I knew that if I didn't do something and the proposition passed, I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

I will admit: I could've done more to defeat Prop 8. Living in the biggest pro-gay bubble in the US (and we love you for it, San Francisco), I was fooled into overconfidence. Less than two months ago, the polls showed Prop 8 losing by a 14-point margin. I smugly told friends who were actively involved in the campaign that I wasn't worried, even as subsequent news reports showed that margin narrowing. I emailed those friends early this morning to apologize if my earlier comments had left them feeling like I didn't appreciate their efforts. I do now, even more than before. Hopefully, I am learning the hard way not to let my own dispassionate apathy prevent me from actually getting involved in political issues that matter to me.

I am also reminded of my words from just a few days ago, when I pointed out that, no matter what was to happen on Election Day, many people would walk away feeling upset. In writing that, I certainly didn't know I would be one of the upset ones. I don't think I'm disclosing anything startling when I reveal most of the folks I know are gleefully rejoicing at Barack Obama's win. After all, it is a history-making mandate for change. But I feel left out of the party.

The fact that a huge number of Californians voted both for Obama and in favor of Prop 8 is a reality check on the state of civil rights. While we've obviously made great strides in terms of racial equality since the 1960s, the gay rights movement has unfortunately proven it still has more time and effort to put in before it can keep pace. I continue to believe history will ultimately go the way of legal justice and equality for everyone in this matter. Already, same-sex marriage has been legalized in places like Spain (where three-quarters of the population identify as Catholic) and South Africa (where apartheid was only outlawed in the 1990s). I had hoped California was ready to profoundly reiterate that trend. I now see we're not there yet.

In the end, I am left to follow my own advice—to think deeply about those who view Prop 8's passage as confirmation of their faith, protection of their cherished institution, and a referendum favoring their stated values. Their victory was indeed hard fought. I hope those on their side are able of returning this courtesy of basic compassion.

I sincerely hope that if any individual Prop 8 supporter were to have met me face-to-face, human-to-human, while I sobbed uncontrollably in the harsh acknowledgment that my homeland's residents have voted against respecting me for who I am… well, I sure hope they'd be able to meet me heart to heart, too, with the understanding that their triumph casts a dark shadow over my future. We don't have to agree in order to feel for each other.

Better yet, I hope they'd see their grandchildren's dreams in my eyes. After all, you never know who in your family will be born gay. They are us, and they are also you.